Game Notes: Thunder at Nuggets
It ain’t over yet.
by Sulaiman Folarin / @sulaiman4real
Denver, CO — Ty Lawson scored a playoff career-high 27 points in the Denver Nuggets 104-101 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 4 of the Western Conference first round playoff series to extend their postseason run by another game.
But the game went down to the last shot of the game: a miss 3-point jumper by Russell Westbrook.
Danilo Gallinari added 18 points while Kenyon Martin dropped 13, 9 of which came in the first quarter alone.
Kevin Durant scored a game high 31 points, while his teammate Westbrook added 30 points but took 30 field goal attempts in the process.
“He [Lawson] had a special game, he and Westbrook are fun to watch,” George Karl said. “They are talented kids that are playing on a stage.”
The atmosphere and the stage in Denver was deafening. The sellout crowd was raucous throughout the game. The Nuggets were yet to win a game in this series and was already three games in the hole.
With this game it was either win or go home; a slogan made famous by TNT the network which the game was on for the night.
The crowd of 19,155 at the Pepsi Center continuously waved their blue rally towels and their team responded. Martin heard the rally call and led the way for the Nuggets in the first quarter.
“They got a big lift from their crowd and their bench played well. They made big shots, J.R. Smith had a good game and Ty Lawson played well, said Durant.
The Nuggets led the opening quarter 26-20 and got to the rim often while playing great defense. Denver led the entire first quarter expect for when they were down 5-4 with 8:11 left in the quarter when Westbrook nailed a three point jumper.
“We made them miss shots at the basket we did a great job of not fouling. Russell [Westbrook] was pretty much getting to the cup at will I think we did a great job challenging his shots and he missed a few,” J.R. Smith said.
But Oklahoma City rallied back in the second quarter. With 6:44 left in the half, the Thunder took their second lead of the game thanks again to a Westbrook jump shot, but Lawson came back down the floor and drained a three pointer that gave Denver the lead back 34-32.
“We started off sluggish defensively,” Westbrook said of the way they defended the Nuggets. “They got a lot more transition points than usual tonight.”
The game was stuck at 34 points apiece for almost two minutes, but Durant nailed two free throws to swing the pendulum Oklahoma City’s way with 4:30 left.
“I asked my guys to come in and play hard and they did,” Scott Brooks said of his team’s performance.
Serge Ibaka, who had 5 block shots for the Thunder, extended their lead to four with a mid-range baseline jump shot, but on the Nuggets ensuing possession, Lawson got a layup in traffic to keep it close.
“They set the screens higher on the court so I have a chance to run at them,” Lawson said about his challenge to get to the rim and convert.
Drama ensued in the final seconds of the half. It looked like the Thunder would go into the half leading by one; they led the last game at half also. But a technical foul called on Kendrick Perkins sent Lawson to the line and he tied it at 45. Chris “Birdman” Andersen also got a block on Westbrook’s attempted layup with 4.2 seconds left.
Oklahoma City called a timeout but could not get the ball inbounds as Raymond Felton and Gallinari doubled up on Durant who lost possession and the ball went back to Denver but they could not convert either as both teams went into the half tied.
Oklahoma City tried to pull away in the second half with baskets from Thabo Sefolosha and Westbrook but the Nuggets’ Gallinari and Smith kept it close giving Denver a 65-64 lead with 3:30 left in the third.
“Coach just told me to attack,” Lawson said of their second half performance. “He says that when I attack it fuels the rest of the team. It gets everyone involved and that is what I wanted to do in the second half.”
Denver tightened up the defense and Smith nailed a three point jumper to give the Nuggets a two-point lead to finish the third.
Denver started the fourth the same way they finished the third with Lawson nailing a corner three pointer. During the fourth quarter, the Nuggets’ public announcer was promoting tickets for Game 6 while Denver was still playing Game 4; a bold move considering this game was still going on.
Gallinari lit up in the fourth as Durant kept Oklahoma City in it. But when Gallinari nailed a long three point jumper with 3:04 left, Denver extended their lead to 96-87.
“They just made shots, I don’t think it was what they were doing, just what we were doing defensively, Westbrook said. “We just weren’t ready to go.”
But the Thunder just refuse to go away. Ibaka made it a six-point game with less than two minutes remaining and Durant nailed a three point shot to cut it to two with 1:10. But Denver’s defense pushed Westbrook to miss a three point attempt to take the lead.
“I thought they made plays down the stretch and we did not make play. The game wasn’t lost on one shot,” Brooks said.
“It was a tough shot. I thought they were going in and unfortunately, they didn’t fall for me but I’m going to stay confident and stay aggressive,” Westbrook said of his shooting night.
Felton made one of two free throws and Oklahoma City had a chance to send it into overtime, but Westbrook missed a clear three point attempt to tie the game at the buzzer.
Since this current Thunder team has never closed out a series before, it would be intriguing to see how they finish on their home court on Wednesday.
“It’s very important because it’s tough to win here, Durant said of the next game. “Our home crowd is great and they are going to be very loud on Wednesday or Thursday. Just looking forward to Game 5.”